January 18, 2022
Thank you for your prayers each Wednesday for our prodigals and for revival among us. Sometimes prayer moves the hand of God, but you can be sure that true prayer will always change the heart of the one praying.
The book of Ezra consists of 10 chapters that tell the important story in Jewish history of the first return of God’s people from 70 years of Babylonian captivity. In the first few years of Cyrus king of Persia, a large group of Jews returned to Israel. By the time Ezra arrived on the scene, a few decades later in chapter 7, the temple in Jerusalem had been rebuilt, but the rest of the city and the walls were still in ruin.
Ezra was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses. His intention was to make God’s Word relevant to the people of God. “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).
From our first introduction to the character Ezra and throughout his brief biography there is a statement that is repeated at least 6 times: “the hand of God” or “the hand of the LORD” was with him or was on him.
The first occurrence had to do with his journey from Babylon to Jerusalem where King Artaxerxes gave him whatever he needed. “The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him” (Ezra 7:6).
It is one of many instances in this book where God directed high men of state to assist His work. “In the LORD's hand the king's heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him” (Proverbs 21:1). This is testament to the sovereign nature of God in the progression of His kingdom.
Later in the chapter, it says, “Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leaders from Israel to go up with me (Ezra 7:28).
Ezra was aware that God was at work both in his personal life and in the lives of those around him. This reality gave Ezra the courage he needed to continue in very trying circumstances.
The meaning of the Hebrew word translated courage (châzaq) is to strengthen, to prevail, to be strong, to be firm, and to be resolute. This is what is needed in difficult times, and Ezra had it.
The awareness of God’s presence gave him the inner strength to ward off his own negative struggles and to make the decisions necessary for the task God gave him.
In Chapter 8, a problem arose. While the temple was rebuilt, there were no Levites to minister and do the necessary work. Ezra needed help and again he recognized the hand of God. It says, “because the gracious hand of our God was on us, they brought us Sherebiah, a capable man, from the descendants of Mahli son of Levi, the son of Israel” (Ezra 8:18).
This was divine abundance.
God not only provided the needed men from the tribe of Levi, He provided above and beyond. In verse 20 it says that another 200 came to help.
As Ezra recounted the long trip he said, “The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way” (Ezra 8:31). The journey was filled with thieves and robbers seeking to gain from the weakness of travelers. God’s hand upon him was his true protection.
While it is interesting and encouraging to see the hand of God in the life of a man like Ezra, you too can enjoy the same fullness. Cultivating a sense of His presence is a daily practice that will result in making Him more real in your life.
You may not be traveling 900 miles on foot from Babylon to Jerusalem, but you still need daily protection from the enemies of the gospel, especially your great enemy the devil.
You may not be facing thousands of weary people trying to rebuild their lives from scratch, but will meet people this week who could use your words of encouragement and support.
You may not be needing to find Levites for the temple service, but you will need divine direction for decisions that you will make.
Be encouraged that He is with you!
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel